New Mexico spa’s ‘vampire facials’ likely gave 3 women HIV: CDC

The VIP Beauty Salon and Spa was shut down in 2018, but health officials have continued to investigate former clients’ exposure to blood-borne illnesses.


A defunct New Mexico spa previously under investigation for potentially exposing clients to HIV through “vampire facials” has been linked to at least three cases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Thursday.

In July of last year, the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) advised former clients of VIP Beauty Salon and Spa (VIP Spa), located in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, to get tested after an initial HIV case was confirmed.

According to the DOH at the time, customers who received “injection-related service,” including a vampire facial or Botox injections, may have been exposed to blood-borne illness.

While the salon was shut down on September 7, 2018, following a state inspection, testing on 100 former clients continued through 2019 after investigators found practices at the salon could have potentially spread blood-borne infections, such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

During the initial testing in 2019, it was determined that two HIV cases could be linked back to procedures provided at the spa.  

HIV at New Mexico spa: New HIV case linked to ‘vampire facial’ at defunct spa, New Mexico health department says

Five patients identified, three linked to ‘vampire facials’

The health department’s Infectious Disease Bureau then received a report in 2023 associating another HIV case with the injection services the business offered. The case was traced back specifically to a treatment the spa offered known as “vampire facial” or “PRP facial,” which combined microneedling and the topical application of plasma taken from the customer’s own blood.

The DOH opened free testing sites following this revelation. In 2023, five HIV patients were identified, including four women who had received treatments at the spa and one man who was a sexual partner of one of the four patients, said the CDC.

All four female patients had received at least one PRP with microneedling at the spa. Two of the patients had more advanced infections, indicating their cases were likely a result of exposure before receiving treatment at the spa. The other three patients did not have any other known HIV risk factors, no known social contact with one another, and no specific mechanism for transmission among these patients was confirmed, said the CDC.

“Evidence suggests that contamination from an undetermined source at the spa during spring and summer 2018 resulted in HIV-1 transmission to these three patients,” it concluded.

In total, the investigative team identified 59 clients at risk for exposure and tested 198 spa clients and their sexual partners between 2018-2023. Luckily, no additional HIV infections were identified, nor were any hepatitis B or hepatitis C infections detected. However, free testing is still available, as the investigation remains ongoing.

Unlabeled blood, used needles found at spa

The CDC noted that while transmission of HIV via unsterile needles and injection practices is a well-known risk, transmission through cosmetic injection services via contaminated blood has not been previously documented, making this the first investigation to associate HIV transmission with nonsterile cosmetic injection services.

Analysis of the evidence suggested that the HIV transmission most likely occurred via the receipt of PRP with microneedling or “vampire facial” procedures specifically, though the source of contamination remains unknown. The CDC believes the transmission can be attributed to poor infection control practices found at the spa during the fall 2018 inspection.

These conditions discovered by inspectors included unlabeled tubes of blood and medical injectables stored in the kitchen refrigerator along with food; unwrapped syringes in drawers, on counters, and discarded in regular trash cans; unlabeled blood tubes sitting on a kitchen counter alongside a centrifuge and heating dry bath; and improper cleaning practices, including a lack of required sterilizing tools, equipment and chemicals.

Free testing remains available for former clients of the spa, and the investigation and public health response are continuing, said the CDC.

What is a ‘vampire facial’?

A vampire facial or PRP facial is a procedure to rejuvenate skin using your own blood. It entails using plasma and platelets from your blood applied to your face via microneedling or ordinary injections.

A traditional vampire facial starts with a provider taking a small amount of your blood, spinning it in a centrifuge to extract protein-rich plasma, extracting platelets and then concentrating the sample to create platelet-rich plasma (PRP).

This can then be applied to the face topically, followed by microneedling, or the use of many tiny sterile needs to create superficial punctures in the skin. The procedure benefits the skin by encouraging cell turnover, increasing the production of collagen and elastin and creating a smoother, younger and tighter appearance.

Patients with deeper wrinkles, volume loss or other skin concerns may opt for a vampire facelift or PRP facelift, which uses the same PRP in tandem with dermal fillers injected directly into the face.

People considering these procedures are advised to seek out an experienced, board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon to consult on and perform the treatment. When not performed by a licensed provider in a properly sterilized environment, PRP treatments can easily pose a serious health hazard.


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